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Wed, Apr 04, 2007

Sea Launch Reports Progress In Failed Launch Investigation

Says First Stage Anomaly Resulted In January Accident

Sea Launch reports significant progress in the investigation into the cause of an unsuccessful January 30 launch attempt, and repairs to the Odyssey Launch Platform.

Sea Launch uses a mobile sea platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit 3SL rockets. As of January 2007 it had assembled and launched 24 rockets,  with two failures and one partial failure.

As ANN reported, Sea Launch lost both its rocket and the commercial communications satellite destined to serve Netherlands-based SES New Skies in an unsuccessful launch attempt this past January, as the Zenit-3SL rocket exploded on the mobile floating launch platform stationed in the equatorial Pacific.

The Sea Launch consortium of four companies from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and Norway was established in 1995, and its first rocket was launched in March 1999. The national space agencies of Russia and Ukraine formed an interagency commission in early February to investigate the cause of the incident and determine the necessary corrective actions. The commission recently concluded its investigation and issued a summary statement to Sea Launch, indicating an anomaly within the first stage engine caused early termination of thrust, resulting in the loss of the mission.

The Sea Launch Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) is meeting this week in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, with representatives of the interagency commission and Sea Launch partner companies, to evaluate the commission's findings regarding the root cause of the anomaly and recommended corrective actions. The FROB is comprised of Sea Launch technical leadership and US aerospace industry experts as well as customer representatives. Upon completion of the meetings, the FROB Chairman will determine whether to close the FROB and begin implementation of the recommended corrective actions or to keep the FROB open for further investigation and evaluation.

Concurrently, the Sea Launch team has completed its damage assessment phase of the Odyssey Launch Platform, including repair and recertification requirements and scheduling of repair activities. The team is now engaged in a fully integrated recovery process to restore all damaged systems back to their original operating capability. The most significant of these efforts will be the construction and installation of a new gas deflector located beneath the launch pad, replacement of heat-affected cable and wiring, replacement of the launch support umbilical interface to the launch vehicle, and painting of the external surfaces.

The one-of-a-kind gas deflector -- a 250-metric ton steel structure that directs the engine exhaust away from the platform and controls the acoustic environment -- is being built in St. Petersburg, Russia, by the original subcontractor. The Design Bureau of Transport Machinery (DBTM), Sea Launch's Russian contractor for much of the launch support equipment, is managing this effort. Upon completion of the fabrication of the deflector, DBTM will ship the structure to Sea Launch Home Port for installation on the Launch Platform. Additional heavy industrial repair work and painting will be performed at a shipyard on the West Coast of North America.

Based on current progress, Sea Launch anticipates the FROB activity will be completed by June, followed by implementation of the necessary corrective actions leading to return to flight. The Launch Platform repair and recertification operations are expected to be completed in September.

The Sea Launch partners -- Boeing, RSC Energia, SDO Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash and Aker ASA -- remain fully committed to working together to resolve this anomaly and recover from its consequences for a Return to Flight in October.

FMI: www.sea-launch.com

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